In the old days (last year), teaching was a noble thing. Still respected by a large swath of society, and expected by university students, a lecture to crowd of bleary eyed 19 yr olds with laptop computers in front of them was a valid way to make a living and still a relatively effective way to educate future leaders, workers and citizens. The flaws in this system were masked by the evident success of the graduates. Overall, it has been one of the most successful systems in the world for upward mobility at scale. But things have a way of happening.
An economy in the clutches of private equity separated from generations of community, responsibility and integrity by the profit motive for institutional investors in a circular firing squad of the destruction of the social compact have kindled the brush fire that would become an inferno with the Covid-19 pandemic. Now what do we do? The question floats in the air of university trustee boardrooms with no answer or consensus in sight.
Sorry, folks, can’t help you here. If you asked I’d tell you what to do but you won’t, sorry for that. Because I recently left the professoriate voluntarily I can too easily be accused with the ‘that’s easy for you to say,” comeback and I don’t need to hear it. Though I have been an advocate of radical innovation throughout my academic career I was able to enact very little of it. Once in an emergency I put in place an online partnership with a third party provider that would lower our costs, improve the depth and breadth of our coverage of the field, and be much more flexible and accessible and even lower costs for students. One semester, barely and then the meetings began on bringing back the old. Issues, accreditors, multiple moribund accreditors, multiplied and I withdrew emotionally and intellectually.
Now there is a calling.
Schools maybe not opening. Students not wanting to go back to online learning this fall need something different to occupy their time and be productive. Online learning and courses have their place — but Transformative? Transcendent? Inspirational? No one would ever claim that is the norm.
In my own teaching over the years I experimented with many different methods and ideas about teaching. There’s no need to go through all of those phases here, but in the last few years, as the internet became an appliance more than a resource, it became possible to leverage internet resources through a creative lens to become critical thinking and creative problem solving educational experiences.
This is what may be the nugget that makes the difference from WorldlyXP:
A carefully curated group of websites, games, interactive simulations, linked from the internet can provide an experience that most students would never find on their own.
Putting together complimentary themes, Opposing perspectives and unexpected relationships can all be shown with curated resources from the internet. Any student can search for links on art, but when Medhita, our vastly talented and discerning intern searches, she puts together a great video on what I can do with a major art with games on color, poster and art galleries and interior design simulations. The personal introduction she makes, about her own art work and its role in her life of connecting her creativity with her culture and family makes a big difference to students. This isn’t something a 45 yr old PhD doing this for a job can transmit to young people very easily. A personalized project, active learning, making you do something can bring the material together with your experience, creative thinking, experiences, even hopes and dreams, to unearth something unexpected. I know, because I have been doing my best to do this in class and online for the past few years. But to tell the truth, Medhita does it better.
With feedback on your project and an evaluation at the end, I think we have an experience which can lead to next steps for a student — learning. It has been rarely acknowledged, I believe, in teaching and learning circles, that the preparation for learning is as important as the learning itself. It is the gas in the engine that makes the trip possible. If we can provide the fuel for curiosity, the seeking of more, we’ve done something. If we can do it at scale, with the majority of the content self-paced, well, then we’ve got something!